Summer of 84 (2018)

DailyView: Day 347, Movie 494

Summer of 84 felt like it was one specific type of genre film and then it swerved into a whole different type without any warning. I guess I should have known since it was on Shudder that it would be considered a horror movie, but I did not expect how things developed.

This absolutely felt like those 1980s flicks where a group of kids pursue the villain and/or solve the mystery at the end, films like The Goonies, Super 8, Monster Squad, It, Stand by Me. Sure, the topic was darker, but the feel of the film was very much similar.

Over-imaginative teen Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) suspected that his neighbor, police officer Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer) was a serial killer who had been targeting kids for years. Though he had his suspicions, Davey had no proof so he and his friends started to spy on Mackey over their summer searching for the evidence that they needed to bring their theory to Davey’s parents.

The best part of the movie was the fact that I was never sure which way the film was going to go. There was certainly a possibility that Davey was correct and that Mackey was the killer, but there were also hints and nods that Mackey was not the killer and that Davey was mistaken. I actually switched my thoughts several times throughout the film and was not sure until a certain moment occurred. I love not being 100% sure and being kept off balance by the story.

Graham Verchere did a fantastic job as Davey. He was a perfect protagonist, someone everybody could relate with and the personification of the innocence of youth. His friends were all great too, with each getting something extra added to their characters as the story went along to provide each of them more depth. Davey’s best friend Woody (Caleb Emery), Faraday (Cory-Gruter Andrew), and Eats (Judah Lewis) spoke like real teenage boys with too many hormones to think straight. Each of the boys had something to build the characters on so they were not just tropes.

There was also the older and beautiful girl next door Nikki (Tiera Skovbye) gave Davey a foil to bounce things off even while driving Davey’s friends crazy with her beauty.

While all of these characters fit nicely into the group of kids and a mystery genre film, Summer of 84 took a drastic turn at the end. At first, the ending felt anticlimactic after building to a certain scene, but then the film went seriously dark and left the viewers with a gut punch of a conclusion that I did not see coming.

I do not think the film needed to be set in 1984. There was a Reagan-Bush yard sign and a reference to Steven Spielberg, but, after that, there was not much use for this as a setting. Perhaps it was set in 1984 to prevent the use of cell phones and such, which does ratchet up the tension in several moments where a cell phone could have been helpful. I think the setting was more for the ambiance of the film genre than for anything else.

Summer of 84 was engaging throughout, perhaps a tad long, but flipped the script in the third act to really earn its horror classification. The film featured great performances from its young cast and an ending that will stick with you.

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